How is nursing home abuse or neglect defined?

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

Nursing home abuse and neglect are widely defined. The Administration on Aging, a federal agency that oversees the welfare of elderly people in New York and around the country, offers a clear definition of abuse. According to the AOA, abuse is characterized as the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or cruel punishment with resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish or deprivation by a person, including a caregiver, of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish, or mental illness.

While most people associate physical abuse with pushing, hitting, or using an object to strike an individual, nursing home abuse extends further to include rape, indecent exposure and other unwanted sexual contact with a resident. Physical abuse also involves improperly restraining residents physically or by the use of a chemical substance. Nursing home abuse may include that which is done psychosocially and verbally. This type of abuse includes intimidating, humiliating, harassing or threatening the person and is done through nonverbal or verbal acts intentionally to inflict distress, pain or anguish on the elderly person.

Although somewhat ambiguous in definition, general neglect among elderly nursing home residents continues to increase. Neglect is evidenced when caregivers, who are responsible for providing basic and necessary care for elderly nursing home residents, fail or refuse to fulfill their duties. These duties include providing services and goods to promote the elderly person’s physical, emotional and mental well-being such as consistent bathing, regular exercising, adequate dental care and proper hydration.

Family members who suspect that their loved one is the victim of nursing home neglect or abuse may be eligible to hold the facility and its workers liable for damages. An attorney might analyze the case for evidence that could possibly be used in the plaintiff’s claim against the facility.

Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Elder Abuse in Residential Long-Term Care Settings: What Is Known and What Information Is Needed?“, October 29, 2014

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